20th August, 2006  Volume 13, Issue 6

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


Does 'National Security' mean 'Security of the government?'

Governments often resort to censorship of the media in desperation rather than on sound reasoning based on reality. For the past three decades we have seen executive presidents clamping down on the freedom of the media - private media and not.......


 More Focus


> Blessed are the war mongers... (Thelma)

> Will Bush's $ 80 million 'Cuban Democracy Plan' work? (World Affairs)


Does 'National Security' mean 'Security of the government?'

Governments often resort to censorship of the media in desperation rather than on sound reasoning based on reality. For the past three decades we have seen executive presidents clamping down on the freedom of the media - private media and not the kept media - as political crises escalate and they lose control of the situation but later regret the imposition of censorships that made matters worse. Nonetheless, it appears to be a gut reaction of those with executive presidential powers.

The week before President Rajapakse was facing such a situation: the east going up in flames and bombs exploding in broad daylight in Colombo itself and the crisis was by no means over last week.

Mahinda Rajapakse

On Tuesday President Rajapakse summoned the bosses of radio and TV institutions as well as editors of national newspapers to the presidential secretariat


This writer was there not as an editor but as a representative of the editor of The Sunday Leader, kicking our heels inside what was the restaurant of the old parliament awaiting the arrival of the President. We were wondering whether the incumbent President was following the precedent of the previous president on punctuality when he arrived 45 minutes behind schedule.

But he appeared to be a stickler for official etiquette when right at the commencement he expressed his regrets - not for coming late - but because some of those who had been invited by him for the conference had not come but sent in their representatives. He strongly condemned this practice. Since we were not asked to clear out and had been admitted in by those important looking Presidential Secretariat officials, despite our declaration that we were representing the editor, we stuck on.


It started off with a film show of the engagement of the security forces with the LTTE in the Eastern Province theatre - Mawilaru and other places. The main theme of the show was that the armed forces were engaged in what was described as 'retaliatory action' and not a war.

The government was only responding to acts of terrorists and was not engaged in offensives. Perhaps, this 'retaliatory action' was another variation of 'humanitarian action' which the army engaged in during the Mawilaru operation, as was described by the Defence Ministry Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella.

Right throughout this conference, it was stressed, particularly by President Rajapakse that this was not a 'war' but merely 'retaliatory action' against terrorism. This is perhaps an effort to make the point that the government was not violating the Ceasefire Agreement.  How these 'terminological exactitudes or inexactitudes'- to use Churchil-lianesque - would sit on our peace monitors and facilitators are anybody's guess.

National  security

President Rajapakse rambled on about the responsibility of the press to protect 'national security.' National security has been invoked by his predecessors, commencing from J.R. Jayewardene himself as a prelude to media censorship. Rajapakse did not threaten to impose censorship but instead said that he was under tremendous pressure to act on certain media reports from certain quarters.

He welcomed press criticism but 'national security' was all important. He however regretted the manner  some media institutions distorted facts. Terrorists were made to look heroes. He had opposed censorship in the past and did not want to impose it now. But he was under severe pressure to get tough with the media. He would never deprive the people of their fundamental rights but would not condone irresponsible journalism that threatened national security.

All in all it was a warning signal for the media and it was nothing new - old wine in new bottles.  Previous presidents had said the very same thing.

Government security

But questions remain to be answered. When national security is spoken off does it involve the security of a governing party and its leaders or the security of the nation?

Quite often criticism of government action in times of crises draws accusations of not being patriotic. Exposure of the atrocities of security forces results in accusations of treason.  Security personnel of almost every nation are often guilty of gross violation of human rights, however highly trained, disciplined and motivated they may be.

The recent incidents of the war in Iraq and that in Afghanistan are such examples.  Should the media cover up such events?  Mahinda Rajapakse who was one of the leaders in the fight to save southern youths taken into custody in 1989-'90 should know the answers.

State secrets

The President has also raised the issue of state secrets being published by the media. This is indeed a very valid objection and great care should be taken by all journalists not to endanger the security of the state by publishing sensitive information.

In previous columns we have said that while journalists should exercise the utmost care in publishing such information, the greater share of the blame should go to those officials who leak out information. Quite often high ranking officials leak out information to embarrass their rivals in the services.  Those protecting national security should be more concerned with these officials than the journalists concerned.

But if action has to be taken against journalists, let not all journalists be painted with the same brush and a blanket censorship be imposed. If individual journalists are responsible surely there is the Official Secrets Act that can be resorted to?

Will Bush's $ 80 million 'Cuban
Democracy Plan' work?

Eighty -year- old Cuban Leader, Fidel Castro has recovered from intestinal surgery , once again proving to the world that American plans for his death are premature.

Castro, who has been defying the most powerful nation for 47 years since he staged a revolution and took over power, has been successful in thwarting many attempts to assassinate him and even humiliate him by making his beard drop by administering drugs surreptitiously.

President Bush as far back as in 2003 appointed a commission to 'help hasten democracy' in Cuba after the death of Castro. The commission which included Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gonzales produced a 'Cuban Democracy' plan estimated to cost $ 80 million to be implemented after Castro's death.

Castro when he had heard of this plan when it was first mooted had exclaimed: 'Is there anything more befuddled than have this crazy woman (Condoleeza Rice) appeal for transition.' The Cuban Revolution, he had asserted, was the 'sanctuary of universal ethics.'

Sanctions stepped up

News of the impending surgery had made things move faster. President Bush is reported to have said: the plan is to help the people of Cuba in their 'transition from repression and control to freedom.' The plan showed that the United States was 'actually working for a change in Cuba - not waiting for change.'

Reports say that Castro's illness had resulted in four decades of US sanctions that had been in placed against Cuba being heightened. Propaganda broadcasts on Radio Marti from the US to Cuba had been stepped up while visits of Cuban Americans to Cuba had been curtailed. The amount of money sent by Cuban exiles home had also been restrained. Even a Cuban transition officer had been appointed.

The Cuban Plan which is aimed at bolstering democracy includes provision of legal experts to enable holding of elections, training of judges and the police within 180 days.

But even if Castro succumbs to his illness Raul Castro has been named by Fidel as his successor and Raul had said that the true successor would be the Cuban Communist Party.

Destabilise Cuba

President Bush would have to find ways and means of implementing their $ 80 million plan because it is bound to be strongly resisted by the Cuban government. Early last month President of the Cuban National Assembly Ricardo Aaron alleged the United States of having a plan to destabilise Cuba. Reports claim that the  Cuba Plan was presented to the US National Security Council at a meeting on Cuba.

According to the Aaron the report considered in July was more sinister than the previous report in that there were classified sections that detailed plans to attack the country and assassinate Cuban leaders.

Aaron has also alleged that the plan proposes that the US should be permitted to sue in US courts those companies and businesses  of third countries that do business with Cuba's nationalised companies which originally belonged to US citizens.

In another US State Department report titled, 'Compact with the people of Cuba' it is said that Cuba is a destabilising force in this region along with the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez by providing funds to subvert governments in the region. Help was offered to  a post Castro government if it was committed to free elections and a market economy.

Aaron has described the 'Cuban Democracy' plan a 'politically delirious provocation. The US will not succeed in destroying the Cuban nation but they could harm and cause deprivation of the Cuban people, he had said.

Annexation planned

Earlier, in May 2004 President Bush announced a plan to annex Cuba. The document released outlined plans which included return of property to former owners, privatising all sectors of the economy including health and education. The new report some analysts have noted has brought in additional measures to the previous report directed at accelerating the demise of the Cuban revolution.

Considering President Bush's record of violating the sovereignty of countries and even invading them, the Cuban Democracy Plan has to be taken seriously.

Cuba is a country well recognised by the comity of nations and was recently elected to the United Nations Council on Human Rights. Cuba is to host the Non Aligned Nations Summit in September this year.

But President George Bush shows scant regard for the independence and sovereignty of nations as has been evident in his invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. His grandiose objective of establishing 'democracies' in these countries is far from fruition and in fact what has been established is not democracy but anarchy.

Cuba no doubt has been and still is a rigid Communist dictatorship under Fidel Castro. It is a one party state and opposition to Castro and his Communist Party is not tolerated. Thousands have fled to America and there are a countless number of political prisoners. There is no academic freedom and trade unions don't exist.

Yet under Fidel Castro's dictatorship of a near half century, the country has progressed and improved the quality of life of the people, particularly in education and health. More than anything else Fidel Castro's charisma enabled him to survive so long and remain as the only remaining communist head of state.

Wrong assumptions

After his death will Communist Cuba survive? The Americans made the wrong assumption under President Kennedy that an invading force would make the Cubans to rise and take to arms against a dictatorship. The result was utter humiliation for the superpower.

President Bush made the same mistake in Iraq when he overthrew the bloody dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. It resulted in absolute anarchy and even though they have chased the Taliban government into the desolate mountains of Afghanistan, the Taliban keeps coming back.

Whether President Bush's 'Cuban Democracy Plan will work has to be considered in this light. Even if it does succeed this export of democracy at gun point will not win friends for America in most countries.

Blessed are the war mongers...

Dear Ma-hinder

I don't know dearie if you have ever had Shiro going on and on and on in your cauliflower ear about that red saree with pink dots that Pattie wore to the Hilton Tittle Tattle.

Pattie's wardrobe atrocities may be the last thing you want to hear even on a good day, but right after making tedious small talk with Wee Wee on Muttur atrocities... Pattie's attraction as a subject of conversation would perhaps wane even more.. And suddenly before you know it something snaps deep within you.

At times like these you merely snap. Your outraged soul is not satisfied by mere verbal epithets or fantasy thought such as may her cook get tight on the night of the big dinner party or may termites gnaw away at the foundation of co existence or even may his cistern leak like a bally two year old with diarrhoea. At such intense moments you tend to, I said snap.

I've had the same experience with my shoe lace. And that darling is exactly what seemed to have happened to those peaceful chappies demonstrating like several swamis on a collective rock last week. They simply snapped.

These things happen. There they were moving for peace and tranquility when out of nowhere they were confronted with some rotund objects in orange robes. Never has a movement for peace and tranquility ever acted so much out of character and blotted them a good one on the nose.

Believe me it was hard to detect who did what in the melee of arms and legs not to mention orange robes. But five minutes later the stage of the brothers of tranquility, strewn with torn robes and men with shattered looks looked more like Becky's barroom that had been done over nicely by the Gatlin boys.

It was not immediately clear who the Coward of the County was from where I stood in front of a 14" telly. I may as well tell you however that I stared at the sight astounded. I could utter no verbal rebuke as there was no one around me but I could say tut, tut disapprovingly and you bet I did.

Even as some yipped blue murder in the tenor clef and another roared help taking the bass, the robed chappies suddenly felt they couldn't stick around much longer. Side stepping the wrath of the masses they picked up their tattered robes, their shattered dignity and their feet and was gone like the wind.

I stared at the orange robed pills appalled at their moral code. Here I was of an evening sucking on a Cabernet Shiraz thinking thoughts of samsara and nirvana and peace for all and that sort of thing and wanting in my old age to visit a temple, when I'm jolted out of my chair much like a west African tribal warrior happily walking along the banks of the Gbongo Gbgogo who is suddenly bitten on the fleshy part of his thigh by a crocodile.

And I know a thing or two about it M'dear. In fact I couldn't have known more about the sudden jolt and jump that often follows a crocodile bite if I'd been a West African tribal chief myself.

But all this has churned me up like an egg whisk my darling. There we are in Paradise, preaching non violence and peace and harmony and all that type of  thing. Frowning heavily upon that young child who proceeds to squash an ant that had bitten him in the hind quarters. Admonishing the young village mothers for breaking eggs, prompting a deep desire for the forbidden omelette.

And yet when somebody wants to promote peace and goodwill and what not the robed ones are up in arms making a case for war. May be there is a new sect or cult developing dear.

One wonders did they mistake the message of peace on earth and goodwill to men as a bally Christmas in August? Did they perhaps feel that this was some kind of depraved conversion baptism? One never knows really what goes on in the minds of those shiny reflective pates. Years of reflecting the suns rays of a fine morning may have finally caught up with the old grey matter.

And Thellie is dismayed by these allegations that the robed ones are terrorists themselves. M'dear it's hard to keep track of extremists groups these days, what with Wee banding together a few disgruntled chaps ever and anon when he is bored at home and the Sihala Urumaya doing the same thing when the little woman hasn't mustered up an exciting evening, it's a jungle out there and Thellie doesn't care much for it.

I mean to say dear with these robed chappies declaring to the Paradisians that they would disrupt all peace rallies and other meetings in favour of peace Thellie has been feeling the need to get outside a stiff long island iced tea ever since.

The thing is dearie the next time you kick off your sandals and walk into a temple to offer a lotus flower or two, speak earnestly to the robed chaps and elicit an explanation for this extraordinary phenomenon.

I mean to say may be some of these fellows are sick dearie. St Vitus  dance or some kind of catatonic seizure. Why else would they go about town grabbing microphones and unfurling banners in that foul manner?

In fact here's a good sixth precept. Do what I say but don't do what I do.

Ta ra for now.

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